Place, Naming and the Interpretation of Cultural Landscapes

Authored by: H. Alderman Derek

The Ashgate Research Companion to Heritage and Identity

Print publication date:  April  2008
Online publication date:  March  2016

Print ISBN: 9780754649229
eBook ISBN: 9781315613031
Adobe ISBN: 9781317043249


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Naming is a powerful vehicle for promoting identification with the past and locating oneself within wider networks of memory. The passing of surnames from one generation to the next is an important symbol of personal heritage in many cultures. Growing interest in genealogical research has spurred many people to trace the origin and meaning of their family names. As Ruane and Cerulo (2000, 70) observe, surnames ‘serve as a roadmap to the past; they guide us through an individual’s lineage and archive one’s traditional group affiliation and cultural ties.’ By the same token, giving up a surname, such as many women do on marriage, represents an important power dynamic in deciding whose family history will be recognized and preserved publicly. Little surprise that nineteenth-century feminists such as Lucy Stone and Elizabeth Cady Stanton saw the retaining of maiden or birth names as a central element in the crusade for women’s rights (Kaplan and Bernays, 1997). Naming is a noteworthy cultural practice not only because of its ability to create a sense of continuity over time but also through its capacity for changing and challenging lines of identity.

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